I have a confession to make: I’ve only seen about 2 classic lesbian films. I know, I’m a bad queer woman. When I admitted this to my fellow GO coworkers, they were appalled. Two of them quickly listed off at least 10 films I needed to watch right away. I rapidly wrote down the titles (for research, obviously).
And I want to take you all along with me in my quest to review all of the lesbian classics through my Millennial queer lens. Last week, I reviewed the lesbian classic that withstands the test of time “Desert Hearts.”
This week, I’m watching “Better Than Chocolate.”
The film starts off strong with the gay and I love it. Within the first five minutes you see drag kings, dildo’s, an out lesbian and rainbow streamers. The opening scene shows the main character Maggie performing at the “Cat’s Ass” (a fabulous gay club). When she’s walking home, she gets harassed by some homophobic men. Of course, her soon to be lover Kim drives up in her truck to scare them off. This is the first time they meet.
When Maggie meets Kim, she’s living at the gay bookstore she works at delicately titled “Ten Percent Books” which also happens to sell sex toys and any book you could ever want about lesbian sex. Right after Kim and Maggie start their u-haul endeavor, Maggie finds out that her mother and brother are coming to visit. This was a pivotal moment for Maggie, she’s not yet out to her family and her mom is distraught from going through a breakup. She wants her mom to think that she’s got life all figured out, while also not having to come out.
I love that they truly don’t shy away from anything in this film. It may be filled with super cheesy 90s vibes, but that doesn’t make the delivery of these messages any less impactful. The film brings up homophobia, transphobia, coming out, and mother/daughter relationships with tact.
There’s a scene at the beginning of Maggie and Kim’s love affair when their cis-het guy “friend” tells them they can’t kiss in his coffee shop. When Maggie retorts that she just saw him kissing a girl the other day on his coffee counter, he quickly kicks them out of his shop.
This film shows an authentic expression of lesbian love at a time when representation just didn’t exist. It’s everything I imagine a 90s lesbian love story to be (playlist included): grungy, filled with radical feminist books, dildos, confusing mother/daughter relationships and general gender fuckery.
Though I love Maggie and Kim and their immediate attraction, my favorite character is Judy. She’s a trans woman who sings this amazingly revolutionary (for the times) song called “I’m Not A Fucking Drag Queen” where she laments:
And if you happen to be gay
You could show a little heart and understanding
Instead of twittering and whispering and pointing
Like a bunch of cunning linguists at some gender crucifixion
And if you think I’m such a freak
And put me in my place
You just may want to look at your pants, oh so wet
You see, Judy has fallen in love with the owner of “Ten Percent Books,” Frances. But she’s yet to make her love known. During this song, she sits on Frances’ lap and sings those lines to her. After that scene, Judy goes to the bathroom to touch up her lipstick while Frances gets ready to take her home—when she’s beaten up in the bathroom by a transphobic woman. Her friends come to her defense and it’s such a beautiful moment that shows what true LGBTQ community should be.
The best scene compilation is when Frances takes Judy home and Maggie’s mom finds her dildo’s and experiments with one. You can feel the build-up of love and intimacy that all the characters are feeling.
The film comes to an explosion of anger—which then turns into an actual explosion at the queer bookstore and homophobic coffee shop. Maggie is mad at her mom for not understanding her, Kim is mad at Maggie for not sticking up for their love, Frances is mad because her bookstore is about to be shut down and everyone is building up to their final moment of revelation. In a radical stance about her identity, Maggie stands at the front of the bookstore with two signs on her body which read “Obscene Lesbian” and “Pervert.” This angers the homophobes in town and they throw some fire threw the windows of the store, causing an explosion.
It’s then that everyone has their moment of release. Kim and Maggie forgive each other. Judy and Frances realize they’re in love. And Maggie’s mom finds happiness for her daughter. It’s a lesbian film that is honest about the real homophobia and transphobia of the times, while also showing queer and trans women thriving. Oh, and of course it ends with a classic 90s song “Ice Cream” by Sarah McLauglin.
Final Queer Millennial Thoughts: Though it may not be the ~best film ever~ I love the ways in which it grapples with the reality of the times, while also using humor throughout the film, and showing that LGBTQ can thrive no matter what life throws our way. It’s definitely a feel-good film that will have you laughing and reminiscing about 90s style and music. If you’ve ever felt a tense relationship with your mother over your sexuality, you’ll relate. If you’ve ever -hauled with a girl, you’ll relate. If you’ve ever fallen hopelessly in love, you’ll relate. It’s a film every lesbian, queer and bi girl should watch at least once in their life!